Current time in Tokyo: July 30, 10:00 a.m.
Here’s what you need to know:The track at the Olympic Stadium was washed down earlier this week in preparation for the events in Tokyo.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
TOKYO — It never quite feels like the Olympics until track and field starts. The meet begins Friday morning in Tokyo with preliminary heats in the women’s 100 meters, and continues all day until a lone final, the men’s 10,000, in the evening.
After a loss, a win and a draw, the U.S. women’s soccer team faces a do-or-die quarterfinal against an impressive Netherlands team that outscored its opponents by 21-8 in the preliminary round. Expect goals in this one, too. It’s at 8 p.m. Tokyo time, 7 a.m. Eastern.
The marquee events of any rowing regatta are the eights, and the men’s and women’s races will be contested on Friday morning (Thursday evening in the United States). On the women’s side, the U.S. team will be going for a fourth straight Olympic gold, but they may be underdogs to New Zealand.
Four more swimming finals begin at 10:41 a.m. in Tokyo, 9:41 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. Michael Andrew of the United States is a strong contender for gold in the 200-meter individual medley. Lilly King of the United States will be swimming for a gold medal in the 200 women’s breaststroke. She won an individual gold and a relay gold at the 2016 Games.
And it’s time to bounce. The women’s trampoline competition gets underway.
Allyson Felix of the United States will compete in Tokyo in the 400 meters for her fifth and final Olympics.Credit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times
TOKYO — Athletes in track and field spent the first half of the year taking aim at — and shattering — a smorgasbord of world records. No one should be surprised to see more of those records fall in the coming days, when runners and jumpers take center stage at the Games. Despite the absence of fans, the Olympic Stadium has not been short on drama.
In these uncertain times, reaching the starting line could be considered an achievement. But many of the athletes have come to Tokyo with ambitious goals.
There are 10 consecutive days of track and field, beginning on Friday in Tokyo (Thursday evening in the U.S.) with the first rounds of the men’s 400-meter hurdles, the women’s 800 and 100 meters and more before concluding with the men’s 10,000-meter final. The competition runs through Aug. 8, when the men’s marathon will punctuate the festivities in Sapporo, about 500 miles north of Tokyo, where organizers expect cooler weather.
Allyson Felix, 35, the grande dame of U.S. track and field and a six-time gold medalist, is set to compete next week in the 400 meters in her fifth and final Olympics.
In the women’s 100 meters, Sha’Carri Richardson, the American star whose positive marijuana test cost her a spot in the Tokyo Olympics, would have been a favorite. But though Richardson will be absent, the event remains a draw with sprinters like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, 34, who is already a two-time Olympic champion in the event.
Here’s our complete guide to track and field at the Games, including a breakdown of the rules of competition, a list of the sport’s star Olympians, and the more intriguing events to watch for.
Sunisa Lee performing on the beam in the all-around final on Thursday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Here are some highlights of U.S. broadcast coverage on Thursday evening and overnight. All times are Eastern.
GYMNASTICS Sunisa Lee, an 18-year-old Hmong American who is known primarily as an uneven bars specialist, chases gold in the women’s all-around final, airing at 8 p.m. on NBC Primetime.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL April Ross and Alix Klineman, an American power duo in beach volleyball, take on the Netherlands at 8 p.m. on CNBC.
ROWING The men’s and women’s eights will compete for gold at 9 p.m. on CNBC.
RUGBY Ilona Maher, who has been creating TikTok videos that take followers inside the Olympic Village, and the U.S. sevens team will play Australia at 9:30 p.m. on CNBC.
SWIMMING Caeleb Dressel kicks off the night at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Primetime in a semifinal of the 100-meter butterfly, in which he holds both the world and Olympic records. But there are also medals on the line, with Lilly King and Annie Lazor from Team U.S.A. competing in the 200-meter breaststroke final at 9:40 p.m. on NBC, followed by finals in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, the women’s 100-meter freestyle and the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
BMX RACING CNBC will cover the men’s and women’s finals at Ariake Urban Sports Park starting at 10:40 p.m.
TENNIS Coverage of the semifinals in men’s singles and mixed doubles, and the gold medal match for men’s doubles begins at 11 p.m. on the Olympic Channel.
BASKETBALL Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi take on Japan at 12:40 a.m. on USA Network.
Sunisa Lee of the U.S., center, won the gold in the women’s individual all-around competition. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, left, won silver and Angelina Melnikova of Russia won bronze. Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
TOKYO — For years, Sunisa Lee, a teenager from Minnesota who became the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion on Thursday night, wasn’t training just for herself.
Lee, a Hmong American, went to the gym every day for all the first-generation Americans who wanted to achieve success when their parents had come to the United States with nothing. And she trained through grueling practices and painful injuries for her father, John, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2019 and now uses a wheelchair.
Lee, 18, came into the Olympics wanting to win a gold medal for her father, who is her biggest fan, and for all the Hmong Americans who she feels are unseen in the United States. But she had publicly stated that her goal was to win silver in the all-around because her teammate Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic medalist, had been considered a lock to win that title.
But after a lifetime of chasing Biles in the all-around because Biles hasn’t lost that marquee event since 2013, Lee took advantage of her shot to do so in Tokyo. Biles, considered the best gymnast of all time, withdrew from the team event and the all-around because of mental stress, leaving Lee in position to win it all.
“I didn’t even think I’d ever get here,” Lee said. “It doesn’t even feel like I’m in real life.”
On Thursday, Lee hit routine after routine, often as if she were at practice, not at the most important competition of her life. She even nailed the floor exercise in her last rotation of the night, with new choreography and elements that had been changed by her coach, Jess Graba, that morning.
The change worked. Lee had her best floor exercise score of these Olympics.
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil won silver and Angelina Melnikova of Russia won the bronze.
Yeev Thoj, bottom left, and John Lee watched from Oakdale, Minn., as their daughter Sunisa Lee secured gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around on Thursday.Credit…Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune, via Associated Press
As Sunisa Lee won gold in the women’s all-around gymnastics final on Thursday, cheers erupted halfway around the world, where her family and friends — including her father in a Team Suni shirt — were celebrating her victory at a watch party in the St. Paul suburb of Oakdale, Minn.
In March, Olympic organizers announced that overseas spectators would be barred from the Games. Then just weeks before the Games were set to open, organizers announced that even domestic spectators would be prohibited from attending most of the events.
That left athletes to compete in extraordinarily daunting and unusual circumstances: at largely empty venues, devoid of raucous fans and family members, the familiar faces who know more intimately than most all that it took to arrive at that moment.
“These are the people I do it all for,” Lee tweeted after the competition, sharing a video of her family’s watch party. “I LOVE YOU ALL!” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota was among the Olympics fans watching Lee’s win. On Thursday, he issued a state proclamation designating Friday, July 30 as Sunisa Lee Day.
Athletes’ closest supporters have gotten creative and found ways to celebrate, holding watch parties that commence at dawn or go late into the night to follow events live.
Raising @Graytness_15 ?
The Gray family couldn’t be prouder of their trailblazing daughter!
Big thanks to Dr. Allen and Annie for inviting us in for a watch party from the Best Seat in the House. pic.twitter.com/6bTk8AfTs5
— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) July 28, 2021
THAT MOMENT WHEN YOUR SISTER SCORES A GOAL IN THE OLYMPICS:
WLWT was talking with Rose Lavelle’s brother, John Lavelle, when she scored the first goal for Team USA. pic.twitter.com/otglEtsDOf
— WLWT (@WLWT) July 24, 2021
And at least one athlete didn’t have to wait long to share her excitement. The U.S. swimmer Brooke Forde’s father, Pat Forde, is a writer at Sports Illustrated and is covering his ninth Olympics.
Simone Biles wasn’t entered, but someone still had to win the women’s gymnastics all-around. And it was Sunisa Lee.
The U.S. picked up two freestyle golds in swimming: Caeleb Dressel won the 100 meters and Bobby Finke won the 800. China surprised the field in the women’s 4×200 relay.
The U.S. women’s rugby sevens team began play with two wins: 28-14 over China and 17-7 over Japan to clinch advancement.
Sam Kendricks, the American pole vault world champion, is out of the Games after testing positive for Covid.
Simone Biles after pulling out of the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
What a small and simple word.
What transformative power it possesses.
Simone Biles used it to ultimate effect at the Tokyo Olympics this week.
“Today it’s like, you know what, no,” she said, explaining to reporters her decision to withdraw from the team gymnastics competition to protect her mental and physical health.
It was a “no” that shook the Olympics and put the sports world on notice. It also showed that athlete empowerment, a hallmark for this era in sports, continues to develop and grow. Athletes are more than ready to stand up now, not only for social justice but also for themselves.
Biles is the greatest, most decorated gymnast of all time. She won four gold medals in Rio five years ago and was expected to take home at least three more in Tokyo. But by saying “no,” bowing out this week, and standing up for her well-being in a sports world that commodifies athletes and prizes winning at all costs, she surpasses all of those achievements in importance.
Biles has thrown a wrench in the system. What that “no” says is really this: Enough is enough.
This was an act of individual resistance, putting up a firm wall between herself and the glaring burden of competition.
Elisabeth Seitz of Germany wore a long-legged unitard during the gymnastics qualifying this week.Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
In the end, the midsleeved, long-legged unitard didn’t make it to the gymnastics team final at the Olympics. The German women who wore it to combat the “sexualization” of their sport were eliminated during the qualifying rounds.
The earlier shock over the Norwegian female beach handball players being fined for daring to declare that they felt better in tiny spandex shorts rather than tinier bikini bottoms was not revisited because handball is only an Olympics Youth sport, and none of the beach volleyball players lodged a similar protest.
Yet, in many ways these Olympic Games have been shaped as much by what is not there as by what is.
Like the questions about the ban on marijuana — now legal in many states — spurred by the absence of the sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, or about what makes a woman, raised by the decision of the middle-distance champion Caster Semenya not to compete rather than forcibly lower her natural levels of testosterone, the controversies over clothing have triggered a re-examination of the status quo.
They have cast a spotlight on issues of sexism, the objectification of the female body and who gets to decide what kind of dress is considered “appropriate” when it comes to athletic performance.
For as long as there have been women in competitive sports, it often seems, there have been attempts to police what they wear. This is especially clear in tennis. In 1919, Suzanne Lenglen shocked Wimbledon by wearing a calf-length skirt with no petticoat and corset; she was called “indecent.” It happened again 30 years later, when the American player Gertrude Moran wore a tennis dress that hit midthigh and again the Wimbledon powers that were declared she had brought “vulgarity and sin into tennis.”
At this point, an alien landing on Earth could be forgiven for being confused about the so-called skirts worn by women in tennis, field hockey, squash and lacrosse, since they resemble the vestige of a skirt more than an actual garment.
Likewise, it would make no sense that men and women wear such strikingly different amounts of clothing in, say, track and field, whereas in sports like rowing, basketball and softball they wear close to the same thing.
The answer, when sought, is usually “it’s the culture of the sport.” Culture, in this sense, being synonymous with history and legacy; with what got athletes involved in their sports in the first place; and with the symbols of what connects extraordinary players of today to those who came before.
“Culture is maybe used as a reason and an excuse, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Cassidy Krug, a member of the 2012 Olympic diving team.
Patrick Moster, the sports director of the German cycling program, standing on the side of the track on Wednesday next to Azzedine Lagab, from Algeria, during the time trial in Oyama, Japan.Credit…Sebastian Gollnow/Picture Alliance, via Getty Images
The sports director for Germany’s cycling program has been stripped of his duties and sent home one day after he repeatedly shouted a racial slur during a televised time trial at the Olympics, the country’s Olympic sports federation said on Thursday.
Watching from the sidelines as a German cyclist trailed two competitors from Algeria and Eritrea in a men’s time trial on Wednesday, the director, Patrick Moster, could be heard on camera yelling, “Get the camel drivers,” according to an English translation by the news website Deutsche Welle.
The episode came one day after a Greek broadcaster had cut ties with a commentator for a racist comment about South Korean table tennis athletes, further undermining the themes of inclusion and good will that are an emphasis for organizers of the Games.
Mr. Moster apologized for his derogatory reference to the two cyclists from African countries, which have large Muslim populations. They were Azzedine Lagab of Algeria and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier of Eritrea.
“In the heat of the moment and with the overall burden that we have here at the moment, my choice of words was not appropriate,” he told D.P.A., a German news agency. “I am so sorry, I can only sincerely apologize. I didn’t want to discredit anyone. We have many friends with North African roots. As I said, I’m sorry.”
Mr. Moster’s exhortation drew widespread condemnation in Germany, from figures including Alfons Hörmann, the president of the country’s Olympic sports federation.
Mr. Hörmann said that the federation had accepted Mr. Moster’s apology as sincere but that his comments had breached Olympic values. He said that “fair play, respect and tolerance” were “nonnegotiable.”
The Union Cycliste Internationale, the world cycling association, announced on Thursday that its disciplinary commission had decided to provisionally suspend Mr. Moster, saying that his remarks had been contrary to basic rules of decency.
At the start of the games, a South Korean broadcaster apologized for airing “inappropriate” photos next to countries in the opening ceremony. The images drew criticism from viewers, who said they were offensive or had perpetuated stereotypes.